The Gentlemen’s Ten – We Are All Witnesses


BrothersMy brother and I were talking one Saturday and I asked him if he ever remembered watching our father attend church service. After briefly pondering my question, he replied that he did not. Sparked by a morning conversation with my men’s church group, where my pastor stressed the importance of sons seeing their father pray, I realized there were numerous things that I never witnessed my father do. Probably because he was sparingly there. As young adolescents, we are subconsciously influenced by things we don’t see just as much by the things we do see. Depending on the argument of the week that determined if my father would be allowed in the house, the only two things I did witness, on a regular basis, were alcohol consumption & abuse. Being educated on the virtues of manhood? Well, single mother households don’t allow for such luxuries. My mother did her absolutely best, and I am blessed for it. However, it would have been nice to have meaningful male interaction with the man who played a role in my conception.  So, I comprised a list of things I did not see from my father; but I will ensure my kids do see from me.

10. Work – simple enough concept right? Yet, I don’t ever recall seeing my father go to work. Now, I do remember watching my grandfather head off to automobile factory when nights were spent over my grandparent’s house. He would rise about 6 a.m. to grab some morning coffee before he headed out with his metal lunchbox. Regretfully, I never saw that with my father. It is important for a child to learn the responsibility of work, and I will be sure to instill those values within my children one day.

9. Managing finances is extremely important. However, I was never exposed to this ritual either. I never saw him sit down with mother to pay bills, review bank statements, or construct a savings plan. Sadly, I didn’t learn the importance of a dollar until adulthood. My children will learn the value of money a lot sooner.

8. My mother and grandmother cooked everything. I mean everything. However, a man needs to understand his way around the kitchen. Before, I went to college; I made sure I learned to navigate my way through preparing a meal. A good meal. Not just whipping up a turkey sandwich. My children will see Dad cooking up some delicious spaghetti (my god-daughter can vouch for that), making a chili using soy chorizo (pretty darn tasty), or frying catfish in the oven (have to be health conscious).

7. A gentleman must show affection towards his spouse, and not just when he wants sex. Sure, my father said he loved my mother. And truthfully, he probably really meant it. Unfortunately, the arguments and abuse outweighed the love. My children will understand the concept of treating a woman with class, dignity, and tenderness. And not just on Valentine’s Day!

6. And a gentleman must display affection towards his children. On many occasions, my father stated he loved me and my brother. However, I am not sure how much is guilt and how much is genuine feeling. I was never really sure if his proclamation of love was part sincerity and part apology for all those lost years. I never asked. Honestly, my internal emotions would be arrested when he expressed his love. I simply didn’t know how to react. My children won’t experience these mixed or null emotions. When I say I love you, my children will understand exactly what I mean.

5. I never saw my father wear a necktie until my grandmother’s funeral. Never saw him wear a suit. Never saw him look professional at all. Heck, my aunt taught me how to knot a necktie! This is not an exercises in shallow vanity, but viewing your father as a professional gentleman can be very influential. I remember babysitting my god-daughter one evening. Totally exhausted for ideas to entertainment her, I suggested we go look at my neckties. Pretty desperate, I know. However, she became so engaged with how they looked (I guess women really do have an innate sense of fashion) and was quite delighted to see them. Those small connections are more influential than we ever know. So, my children will see dad in a suit, knotting his necktie, and even polishing his shoes!

4. I remember going to a Harlem Globetrotter’s basketball game with my father when I was young. That was about it. Even though I lived in Detroit, I never visited the Detroit Zoo until adulthood with my wife! Truthfully, a majority of all my social interactions in life began with my wife. My dad never took us to the movies, out to dinner, or to the playground.? These things matter. A month ago, I taught my god-daughter the basics of playing chess. Although she has probably long forgotten the moves, she still asks me to play – every now and again. Things that may appear small to you is so big to them. So, my kids will have the chance to participate in life with their daddy.

3. As a child, I don’t recollect my father smiling or laughing. I am not saying he did not do it, I am certain he did. I just don’t remember seeing it. Denying your children the opportunity to see you display laughter and happiness can potentially rob them of their own emotions in the future. Smiling isn’t bad. Laughing does not make you soft.  A household should be a happy place, filled with joy and laughter. My kids will understand that.

2. Grandmother went to church. On occasion, even my grandfather could be coaxed into going. My children will not only see me go to church, but also be an active part. I am a volunteer in our children’s ministry at church. It really means a lot when I walk through that door and they rush me screaming Mr. Palmer…Mr. Palmer. You can’t help but smile. It is paramount that children see their father as head of their church going family and mine will.

1. Back to our original point. Never have I witnessed my father bend his knee in prayer. I have never even seen my father pray over his food. Look, dad can’t solve everything. After he has exhausted all avenues for solving a problem, his children must witness him turn to the only omnipotent power who can solve them. My children will understand that when they are unable to lean on their father in the physical, they will be able to call upon their Father in the spiritual; our Lord Jesus Christ. It is important that they know this. I will be there to teach them.

This entry is a re-post from my old site that didn’t transfer over. It received a pretty good response, so I thought I would post it again with a few revisions.

6 responses

  1. A great piece my brother. I was raised in a single mother household and never saw any of things you just mentioned. However I knew my kids would get all that I did not have. I now have 2 boys and a daughter and my wife and I do tons of things as a family. My kids have done more things than i ever got a chance to do as a child. Am I upset. . No . . Im the cool dad that all their friends love coming over to visit. I wanted to make sure that i would not let any child that belonged to me would not have to worry about where I was. I knew I would always be in my kids life from day one. By the way I was introduced to your website by the Art of manliness website. So give.him a shout out. I have saved you to my favs. Keeps up the good work. By the way i have never left a response to any web article I have read.

  2. Thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed. The first time I posted it, it resonated with a lot of people, so I decided to post it again. Glad you found your way here by way of Art of Manliness. They are good people over there, I’ve been in contact with Antonio on a few occasions. He’s cool.

  3. Very Good Article! I think I take my dad or rather father for granted sometimes. Though I have my moms seriousness, my dad would make a joke out of everything…and I would merely shake my head and laugh at him. He was an Air Force brat and lived a great life overseas in different countries; so much so that he had a British accent from what I’m told up until he returned to the states for high school. (Black with a British Accent in Louisiana) Though he has lost the accent there are remnants of it every now and then. My parents were young when they had me and my sister, but it is interesting that though he was there I learned minimal things from him. How to dress appropriately, sportsmanship, yard work, attended sporting events, but I actually received things like a strong work ethic, habits of maturity, how to cook, and becoming a nurturer from my mom, grandmother, and my moms oldest sister that took the place of my maternal grandmother. As I sit here and type I am running back events in my mind of my dad. I guess I realized by reading this that although he may not have been perfect (as I shake my head, and laugh) I am appreciative of my experiences with him. Especially since I was able to take the things you didn’t see and am able to say I did. Hmmm…Keep up your writings, because this one warrants me to call him to hear a corny joke.

  4. Again mr Palmer you sir r on point . We have talked before. I am in my fifties and my dad is 86 . I saw him do all the things you talked about. Worked hard. Laughed. Went to church.was always clean we he handled business. Took care of my mom beat my tail when needed. Some things he told me some things I learned by watching. My boys r 24 and 27 and have told me they felt I set a good example. They saw me work 2 jobs at times , laugh,cry,cook hug them and spank them too. Makes me feel good when they tell me about friends who don’t have that. When they we’re kids we had a thing called ” off the record” where they could tell me stuff penalty free. Now sometimes thy tell me stuff I don’t want
    To know. Lol. My oldest loves clothes like me my youngest could care less . And being dad hasn’t stopped yet. We need voices like yours as black men. Please keep it up. Peace. Rd

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